The death knell for the GOP’s hold on the military

It’s time for another scintillating Republican presidential primary debate in which a group of people with no chance to win the nomination will face off against each other. On Wednesday, the GOP alsorans will meet at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. The Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, won’t lower himself to attend such an event with the lesser candidates but he’s rejecting this particular one for other reasons as well. The former president is reportedly fit to be tied at the library for hosting “A Time for Choosing,” a two-year-long speaker’s series, envisioning a “fresh look — through reasoned, intellectual discussion — at the issues, ideas and policies that will define the Republican Party for decades to come.” Probably the most widely disseminated of these talks were those from Trump nemesis Liz Cheney and Reagan Foundation board member Paul Ryan, the former speaker of the House, who said it was “horrifying to see a presidency come to such a dishonorable and disgraceful end.” Apparently, the entire board of the Reagan Foundation agrees.

This is not surprising.

The legacy of Ronald Reagan was once the crowning glory of the conservative movement, a movement that has now been displaced by Trump’s MAGA cult. Reagan no longer has any cachet among the GOP rank and file, most of whom are uninterested in the ideology that once ruled the Republican Party. That ideology was best described by Reagan himself, who saw the conservative movement coalition as a three-legged stool with one leg representing traditional family values, another representing small government and the third representing a strong national defense; the idea being that the coalition could not stand without all three legs of the stool.

Trump never much liked Reagan. He thought he was too soft. Under the tutelage of sleaze monger Roger Stone, Trump took out a full-page ad back in 1987 to complain about Reagan’s foreign policy, making the case that other countries weren’t paying their fair share. No, Trump has not had a new idea in 40 years. Today, when asked what he would do about the Ukraine war he says he’d end it but won’t say how and then inevitably goes into his usual rant about how Europe is taking the U.S. to the cleaners, just as he did for four years as president when he whined non-stop about NATO failing to pay up. He told Fox News, “The money is number one. I’d tell Europe – you’re about $100 billion plus short. Okay? You gotta pay. Because Europe is smiling all the way to the bank” It is literally the only foreign policy he has ever had. On everything else, he just winged it.

Once he became president, he became hostile to the military because they weren’t like the heroes he’d seen in the movies, he was baffled by diplomacy as a tool to retain power and influence, he had no interest in the rest of the world except as a source of financial gain, and saw all threats, domestically and internationally as potentially subject to military violence if he didn’t get his way. People around him had to work night and day to keep him from making a catastrophic mistake from either ignorance or impulse.

I never thought I’d see the day that we’d see the Republican Party supporting Russia, denigrating the U.S. military and drawing up plans to start a war on the North American continent. 

If Trump were the only Republican with such a shallow understanding of national security and foreign policy perhaps we could all just hold our breath and do everything we can to ensure he stays a retired president dealing with his legal and financial problems as a private citizen. But he’s not. The Republican Party is now full of elected officials who are equally incoherent and it seems to be getting worse.

For instance, there is freshman Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, who is holding up hundreds of military promotions in order to force the Pentagon to change a rule that allows service members to take paid leave to travel to a state that provides abortion services. It’s an absurd issue that only someone with an advanced case of Fox News brain rot would even think of but he’s managed to completely alienate the military brass and frustrate the entire Senate for months now. This would have been unthinkable for a Republican to do just a few years ago. The military was the one sacred institution in the U.S. government and funding it or following its guidelines was always an untouchable GOP priority. Not anymore.

But why would Tuberville think any differently? After all, we have the former president calling the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff guilty of treason and declaring that he should be subject to the death penalty so it’s not as if there’s any requirement that Republicans be respectful of the military.

Last week the Speaker of the House, locked in a death struggle with his right flank, decided it was in his best interest to snub Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy to demonstrate that he’s sympathetic with the pro-Russia faction in the House GOP. Again, just a few years ago the idea that we would be talking about a pro-Russia Republican faction would have been ludicrous. That they would be essentially backing a Russian invasion of its neighbor is beyond belief. But the movement among Republicans to withdraw funding from Ukraine, stop all assistance to the war-torn country and force a surrender on Russian terms is growing in the US Congress.

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Over the weekend, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy backed off the commitment he made to Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to stop all support for Ukraine in the Pentagon spending bill saying that some arcane rules make it too difficult to do but it’s not the last we will hear of it. Greene and her cohort are determined to stop the funding so they can bring the war home to the U.S. southern border.

Yes, their argument is that we should not be helping Ukraine defend its border when we aren’t defending ours. And yes, it’s a colossally fatuous argument to compare an armed invasion by the Russian military with migrants seeking asylum, but that’s just how they think. So Republicans are talking about a literal war with Mexico ostensibly to stop drug traffickers and Trump is right there with them having thrown out the idea of bombing the cartels and then lying to the Mexican government and saying “no one would know it was us,” and that he’d be willing to lie publicly about it. This is rapidly becoming GOP policy.

The conservative movement led by bomb throwers like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, hate talk radio king Rush Limbaugh and Fox News’ Roger Ailes ushered in much of the obnoxious, vulgar smashmouth politics that Trump leads today and the party’s descent into ideological incoherence has been well documented. But I have to admit that I never thought I’d see the day that we’d see the Republican Party supporting Russia, denigrating the U.S. military and drawing up plans to start a war on the North American continent. Reagan’s three-legged stool is now nothing more than firewood to burn down the Republican Party and take the country with it. 

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about the GOP’s attacks on the military


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